Friday Sermon: Of Atonement and Forgiveness

By Babatunde Jose

Many of us have heard of the need for Allah’s mercy, but we do not fully comprehend its significance for our existence and Allah’s forgiveness in the hereafter. The Prophet said without Allah’s mercy, no one can be sure of making Aljanna. Said he:“No one’s deeds will ever admit him to Paradise.” They said, “Not even you, O Messenger of Allah?” He said, “No, not even me, unless Allah showers me with His Mercy…Narrated by al-Bukhari, 5349; Muslim, 7042

Allah has repeatedly reminded us in the Quran about His mercy:

Say: “To whom belongeth all that is in the heavens and on earth?” Say: “To Allah. He hath inscribed for Himself (the rule of) Mercy. That He will gather you together for the Day of Judgement, there is no doubt whatever. It is they who have lost their own souls that will not believe.” (Quran 6:12)

Allah’s mercy is boundless. It is therefore left to us to ask for it and it shall be given. Abu Hurayrah narrated the Prophet said: “Allah has one hundred parts of mercy, of which He sent down one between the jinn, mankind, the animals and the insects, by means of which they are compassionate and merciful to one another, and by means of which wild animals are kind to their offspring. And Allah has kept back ninety-nine parts of mercy with which to be merciful to His slaves on the Day of Resurrection.” [Muslim, al-Tawbah, 6908.]

Another example of Allah’s mercy is narrated that ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab said: “Some prisoners were brought to the Messenger of Allah and there was a woman among the prisoners who was searching for her child. When she found her child she embraced him and put him to her breast. The Messenger of Allah said to us, ‘Do you think that this woman would throw her child in the fire?’ We said, ‘No, by Allah, not if she is able not to.’ The Messenger of Allah said, ‘Allah is more merciful to His slaves than this woman is to her child.’ Al-Bukhari, 5653; Muslim, 6912.]

As humans, we tend to commit a lot of mistakes but if those mistakes and sins are done in ignorance and not with the intention to wilfully ignore Allah’s commands, Allah may forgive us out of His mercy on us. He says in the Quran:

When those come to thee who believe in Our Signs, say: “Peace be on you: Your Lord hath inscribed for Himself (the rule of) Mercy: Verily, if any of you did evil in ignorance, and thereafter repented, and amended (his conduct), Lo! He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (Quran 6:54)

However, we run the risk of losing Allah’s mercy when we are arrogant toward His teachings. Allah says in the Quran:

Thy Lord is Self-sufficient, full of Mercy: If it were His Will, He could destroy you, and in your place appoint whom He will as your successors, even as He raised you up from the posterity of other people. (Quran 6:133) 

To receive forgiveness from God there are three requirements:

· Recognizing the offense itself and its admission before God.

· Making a commitment not to repeat the offense.

· Asking for forgiveness from God.

If the offense was committed against another human being, or against society, a fourth condition is added:

1.    Recognizing the offense before those against whom offense was committed and before God.

2.    Committing oneself not to repeat the offense.

3.    Doing whatever needs to be done to rectify the offense (within reason) and asking pardon of the offended party.

4.    Asking God for forgiveness.

There are no particular words to say for asking forgiveness. However, we are enjoined to keep repeating daily:

·  “I ask forgiveness from Allah”

·  “Glory be to You, Allah, and with You Praise (thanks) and I bear witness that there is no deity but You, I ask Your forgiveness and I return to You (in obedience)”.

And Allah says:

“Call on Me; I will answer your (Prayer): But those who are too arrogant to serve Me will surely find themselves in Hell–in humiliation!” (Quran 40:60) 

The past few weeks have witnessed an upsurge in the demands for racial equality, penance for racial abuse and inhumanity of man to man. As for the perpetrators of racism, how can they ask and receive the forgiveness of God for the over 400 years of wrong they have wroth on the black race. Today, we stand on the threshold of a worldwide demand for racial justice, reformation and reparation. There is a great need for atonement, without which God cannot forgive the white race for their untold wickedness towards the Blackman.

As for the Black Race there is a need to pull them up by their bootstrap. This is very easy to say, particularly if you have not experienced the knees of the white race on your neck. As Reverend Sharpton said in his sermon at the funeral of George Floyd, ‘how can we pull ourselves up by our bootstrap when we aint got no boot’. It’s a very serious dilemma. May God have mercy on the Black Race, particularly those in the clutches of White Supremacists. But time they are changing.

George Floyd’s story has been the story of black folks because ever since 401 years ago, the reason we could never be who we wanted and dreamed to being is you kept your knee on our neck;” said Sharpton. “We were smarter than the underfunded schools you….put us in, but you had your knee on our neck. We could run corporations and not hustle in the street, but you had your knee on our neck. We had creative skills, we could do whatever anybody else could do, but we couldn’t get your knee off our neck”, said he. “What happened to Floyd happens every day in this country, in education, in health services, and in every area of American life, it’s time for us to stand up in George’s name and say get your knee off our necks.” “Michael Jordan won all of these championships and you kept digging for mess because you got to put a knee on our neck. White housewives would run home to see a black woman on TV named Oprah Winfrey and you messed with her because you just can’t take your knee off our neck. A man comes out of a single parent home, educates himself and rises up and becomes the President of the United States and you ask him for his birth certificate because you can’t take your knee off our neck. The reason why we are marching all over the world is we were like George, we couldn’t breathe, not because there was something wrong with our lungs, but that you wouldn’t take your knee off our neck.

We have our own Floyds in this part of the world. Our thieving leaders have their knees on our neck and ‘We can’t breathe’. People are suffocating in man-induced poverty, unemployment, want, impoverishment and mystery as a result of the iniquities and self aggrandizement of our leaders. Hope has been betrayed, expectations frustrated and individual efforts have muzzled.  There is a need for the leadership to atone for their sins against the poor and the wretched of our clime. They should repent and ask God for forgiveness. The suffering of our people has reached God in Heaven and He is not pleased. Unfortunately, when the wrath of God is unleashed, there would be weeping and gnashing of teeth. According to the Book of Ecclesiastes 3:1;”To everything there is a time and a purpose and season under the heavens”. Accordingly, there is a time to enslave and a time to set the captives free. Now is the time. Let our leaders learn from the lesson from America. People here can protest too; and when there is nothing more for the poor to eat, they would ‘eat the rich’.

May God forgive us our trespasses! Amen.

Barka Juma’at and a happy weekend


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